There is nothing like the smell of freshly baked bread, and who doesn’t love warm fresh bread? While I was staying in the San Francisco Bay Area, for a temporary teaching job, I discovered an amazing bakery booth at a farmers market close to where I was living. They had the most delicious cakes, cookies, and breads and I have to admit that I tried many of their wares. However, when I tried one of the various versions of their focaccia bread, I was hooked! Talk about mouth watering! I went back every week to try a different kind.
Since I left the farmers market behind, I have wanted to try making focaccia bread. I found this recipe at foodnetwork.com - Recipe courtesy Anne Burrell. I, of course had to change it… so here is my version of Anne Burrell’s recipe. Oh by the way, I seriously love her show, Secrets of a Restaurant Chef!
1 3/4 cups warm water
1 package active dry yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
5 cups all purpose unbleached flour, plus a bit more for kneading
1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus a bit more for the top
1 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
Combine the warm water, yeast, and sugar in a small bowl. Put the bowl in a warm place until the yeast is bubbling and frothy, at least 15 minutes.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with a dough hook, combine the flour, 1 tablespoon of kosher salt, 1/2 cup olive oil and the yeast mixture on low speed. Add a more flour,* a little at a time, until the dough pulls away from the sides and forms a ball around the dough hook. Once the dough has come together, let the machine keep running on medium speed to knead it for 5 to 6 minutes. Add a bit more flour if the dough is still sticky.
*The extra flour is a high altitude adjustment and may not be needed at sea level.
Transfer the dough to a clean, lightly floured surface; knead it by hand 3 or 4 times. Add a bit more flour if the dough is sticky. Form the dough into a ball pulling the dough into the center bottom until the exterior is tight. Coat the inside of the mixer bowl lightly with olive oil and return the dough to the bowl. Turn the ball of dough in the oil ending with the top of the ball up. Cover it with a clean kitchen towel and put it in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size, at least 1 hour.
Coat a sheet pan with the remaining 1/2 cup olive oil. Put the dough onto the sheet pan and begin pressing it out to fit the size of the pan. Turn the dough over to coat the other side with the olive oil. Continue to stretch the dough to fit the pan. As you are doing so, spread your fingers out and make finger holes all the way through the dough. When the dough rises again, your finger holes will create bumpy looking Focaccia bread. Put the dough in a warm place until it has doubled in size, about 1 hour. While the dough is rising a second time, preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
Sprinkle the top of the Focaccia with some kosher salt. Bake the dough for about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and place your toppings on the bread. Return to the oven and continue to cook until it is a golden brown 15 to 20 minutes more. Remove from the oven and let it cool before cutting and serving.
This bread is yummy on its own; however, you can top it many ways… You might want to start with a thin spread of pesto or marinara sauce… this simple step intensely adds to the flavor of your finished product. I topped mine with sliced fresh tomatoes that had been salted and placed in a colander to drain, frozen leaf spinach that had been thawed and wrung out in a kitchen towel, finely chopped onions and garlic that had been sautéed, fresh ground black pepper, and shaved Parmesan Reggiano cheese. You can be as creative as you like, perhaps a spread of creamy white sauce, mushrooms and garlic sautéed in butter and red wine, topped with some shredded Swiss cheese, or cinnamon sugar, sliced apples, and crumbled blue cheese! Yum, dessert, too! ©2012 All rights reserved.